49ers notes: Smith returns to 'Stick thinking small

49ers notes: Smith returns to 'Stick thinking small
August 17, 2011, 2:09 am
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Aug. 16, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE
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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com
SANTA CLARA -- It might not be just another exhibition game for 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, but that is certainly the way he is treating it.When the 49ers face the Raiders on Saturday night at Candlestick Park, Smith enter with a widening lead for the team's starting quarterback job. Coach Jim Harbaugh on Tuesday said Smith has created "separation" in the competition with rookie Colin Kaepernick.Now, Smith might want to convince the 49ers fans he's the best choice, too.
"My mindset is a play at a time, put some good plays together, not get too carried away with anything else, the fans or the 'Stick or whatever," Smith said."I'm trying to put some good plays together and make good decisions, throw some good balls, get some rhythm for this offense. We really struggled to get any rhythm last week, so I think that's the next step."Smith heard some boos Sunday at Candlestick Park during a practice session that was free and open to the public. But Monday and Tuesday, he bounced back with two of his best practices of training camp, Harbaugh said. He appeared to strengthen his grip on the 49ers' starting quarterback job."I'm getting back in the groove of things, and throwing it well and seeing things well," Smith said. "There's still a lot ahead of me but, yeah, I feel like I've put a few days together that have been pretty decent."Kaepernick continues to impress Harbaugh, too. Kaepernick took the final 11 snaps with the first team on Tuesday during a two-minute end-of-half situation in which he got the team in position for a field goal."I expect to do better," Kaepernick said of his goal for the second exhibition game. "I want to improve game to game, so I can work my way into a starting position." Former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said this week he seriously considered signing with the 49ers before deciding on joining the Tennessee Titans.Harbaugh was clearly alluding to Hasselbeck on Tuesday when he talked about the 49ers' quest to find a third quarterback."We thought had a guy in free agency and it didn't work out," Harbaugh said.NEWS: Hasselbeck was first veteran QB 49ers pursued
If Hasselbeck had signed with the 49ers, it would not have been to merely carry a clipboard and wait for a chance behind Smith and Kaepernick. But, now, a third-stringer is what the 49ers are seeking.
The 49ers worked out veteran Daunte Culpepper on Monday and appeared prepared to sign him. Culpepper reported back to the 49ers' team hotel after working out. He remained there until the 49ers determined they would continue their search.NEWS: 49ers set up workout with Culpepper
"We want to make sure we have the best guys we can get on our roster," Harbaugh said. "We have two guys competing for that job right here (undrafted rookies Jeremiah Masoli and McLeod Bethel-Thompson), as well. Having a third quarterback is something we'd like to have. I think if you don't, you roll the dice a little bit."There'll be a few other guys coming in for workouts. That's the best way to do it. You look and evaluate it and kind of compare and see what would be best for us." Adam Snyder, who is competing for the staring center job against veteran Jonathan Goodwin, is simultaneously competing for the right guard spot with Chilo Rachal. Snyder saw considerable practice time Tuesday, as Rachal was in and out of the lineup.
Harbaugh said the 49ers will do more mixing on the offensive line on Saturday against the Raiders."We're doing some of that in practice now," Harbaugh said. "All the offensive linemen need to play their position and play opposite side, too. We do a lot of that for versatility. And the second reason is to see what combinations are for the best five." Shawntae Spencer, who started all 16 games the past two seasons, has taken part in just two full practices this training camp because of a hamstring strain. Rookie Chris Culliver continued to take advantage of the increased practice time, as he made a diving interception of a Kaepernick pass intended for receiver Tyler Beiler.Tramaine Brock and Tarell Brown have also worked themselves into contention for significant roles."They're getting their hands on balls, tight coverage," Harbaugh said. "They're two of the guys who are really adding to bolster our secondary right now." Rookie running back Kendall Hunter might be the shortest player on the team, but he is every bit the talent the 49ers thought they were getting when they selected him in the fourth round.Said Harbaugh: "Justin Smith made the comment yesterday, 'That back is really good.' He said, 'I'd like to think I would've had him. It's practice, but if truth be known I would've pulled a groin trying to get him.' It was interesting to hear a pro like Justin Smith say that. Really, encouraging. He (Hunter) is coming along really well. I think he'll be just fine."